Phase one rollout update
Work is progressing well on phase one of the rollout programme. At the time of writing we have a total of 40 cabinets live with a further 15 Phase One cabinets due to go live over the next few months. Phase one is almost a testing phase as we get to grips with the contract management requirements that are laid down by BDUK, and with the numerous other considerations that need to be worked through before a cabinet can be stood and made live.
A major consideration is the siting of the cabinet itself. Whilst there is no longer a requirement for planning permission to be obtained, we do try to be mindful of the locations in which the cabinets are to be placed. However there is sometimes a trade-off as we do have to meet statutory requirements with regard to highways safety considerations such as visibility for drivers, access to pavements and distances from tree roots etc. We also have to consider the safety of the workmen who will be opening the cabinet regularly to make the physical connections as more subscribers come on-stream. There is also, of course, the requirement not only to provide power to the cabinet itself, but also to ensure that we are not impeding other underground services such as gas and water. In some cases avoiding other services can be a real challenge, and not one that is obvious simply by looking at a street-scene to decide on a cabinet location.
The good thing is that during the run-up to phase one and through the early stages of the rollout we have built strong relationships with other agencies and partners, and have worked together to build processes that will help to minimise the time required to survey a location. We are also finding ways to streamline the actual installation and commissioning process so that things will run as smoothly as possible.
Phase two is about to start
Phase two of the project is due to start in July, with a further 41 cabinets being brought into the programme. These are located across Warwickshire, and include a mix of some very rural areas and some that are not so rural. The full list can be seen on the updated rolling 12-month plan, which is available at: http://www.cswbroadband.org.uk/where-when/rolling-12-month-plan
The exchange areas that are to be upgraded from January are now also included in the rolling 12-month plan, and the September update will bring information on further exchanges.
We did say that we would endeavour to accelerate the rollout and we are actually well ahead of the original programme. As we move into the more difficult areas thing may slow down a little, but we are still expecting to complete the current rollout by spring 2016.
As previously mentioned, the CSW Broadband project was offered the opportunity to bid for £3.68m additional BDUK funding to take our coverage up to 95%, subject to match funding being found. We did say that the match would be a difficult ask given the current condition of Local Authority finances, but are delighted to announce that the provision of broadband throughout the area is considered by our elected members to be a high priority for our businesses and communities and so the WCC Cabinet approved the match funding at their June meeting.
We are now working to submit our bid to BDUK by the deadline of 30th June.
In a welcome turn of events, we have now been offered the opportunity to bid for a further £6m – this is on top of the £3.68m and could make a total of £9.68m additional BDUK money available to the project. When you consider that the current £15.47m contract consists of £4.445m BDUK, £4.445m local authorities and £6.58m from BT it puts the potential additional funding into perspective.
We would need to raise an additional £6m over and above the £3.68m, but if we are able to find the match funding and to procure a delivery partner it could mean a total additional spend of over £19m, plus the delivery partner contribution. That would certainly help to extend the fibre network, although it should be borne in mind that as we extend further out the costs increase so that the number of properties passed will not be at the same ratio as with the current project.
So, where will the additional match funding come from? Well we have just made a submission through the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership for just under £8m EU funding to cover the period 2014 to 2020. This should allow us to cover the £6m, and we hope to hear about this towards the end of this year.
Procurement of the additional network capacity
The procurement of a partner to work with us on the delivery of the additional rollout has unofficially started, with the release last week of our Open Market Review. This does not form part of the legal requirements but is considered to be best practice and we did the same thing with the first contract. Under the Open Market Review suppliers are invited to tell us where they intend to extend their networks over the next three years. The information will be submitted in commercial confidence and will be used to develop the “Grey Areas” for the Public Consultation, which is part of the formal procurement process. Readers will recall that our project is not allowed under State Aid rules to operate in the grey areas as publicly funded projects should quite rightly not cut across private enterprise. Therefore we hope for a good level of response to the Open Market Review and Public consultation, as once the grey areas are set they cannot be changed. We assume that any provider who is planning to invest in their infrastructure will wish to respond to the Open Market Review, which can be found here: http://www.cswbroadband.org.uk/whats-happening/procurement-2014/open-market-review-omr
New CSW Broadband email addresses
We are moving to a new CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system which will make it easier to keep track of our contacts as we have over 12,000 records in our current database. We are also taking this opportunity to set up two new email addresses. From the next edition our newsletter will come to you from BroadbandNews@cswbroadband.org.uk. Please ensure that your firewall will accept that address if you wish to continue to receive our newsletters.
We will also be setting up a new address for enquiries and will give information about that in the next newsletter. In the meantime please continue to use firstname.lastname@example.org for any enquiries
Events on website
We continue to offer a wide range of events through our website. These are delivered by partner organisations and many are completely free of charge. They cover mainly ICT-related topics and we hope to expand the offering.
We will be starting another round of local briefings about the project in September, and information will appear in a future newsletter.
Questions and Answers
My area is still shown as amber, what does that mean?
We don’t have information about the rollout in all areas yet, so they will remain amber. Don’t worry, you are still included in the programme and the timescales have not changed.
So when will I find out if I am included in the rollout under the additional funding?
In realistic terms we are unlikely to be in a position to announce the successful bidder until the New Year and past experience tells us that even then it will be some months before we are able to say which areas will be covered – and of course it all depends on how much funding we actually have!
How far will you get with the additional funding?
An excellent question! The £3.68m BDUK money is to take us to 95%. After that it gets progressively more expensive to provide superfast broadband as communities may be smaller, areas are more sparsely populated and there are geographic and topographic considerations such as rivers. motorways, railways and other obstacles to consider. This doesn’t make it impossible, it just means that the cost per property is considerably higher so that the further we go the less overage we get for the money.
It is less straightforward to say what we would get with the additional £6m (plus £6m match and contractor’s contribution). Although we are working towards our % rollout goals the figures that we use are based on premises that are currently existing. As we all know, there is a huge amount of development that is due to take place across the whole country, and our area is no exception. As things stand at present there is no planning requirement for a developer to provide superfast broadband, and some developments are being built in areas where there is no existing fibre spine. We are therefore working with planners to address this issue and more information will be given in the next newsletter. This development means that we are constantly trying to hit a moving target.
We also have to bear in mind that the further we roll out the more challenging, and therefore the more expensive, the provision of fibre broadband becomes. Extensive work is therefore being undertaken to more fully understand the challenges and the potential costs.
At the end of the day, until we go through procurement we will not know exactly what is achievable, but we are doing our utmost to ensure that we have all of the necessary information to once again be able to provide a robust challenge throughout the procurement exercise.
Frequently asked general broadband questions can be found on our website at: